Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) study that suggests the procedure, often used to treat some of the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD), may provide relief to those suffering from severe depression and bipolar disorder. According to an article published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, 92% of participants in a clinical study reported significant relief from these psychiatric conditions, while half of the study's 17 patients found that their conditions remained in remission.
DBS uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator - similar to a heart pacemaker and approximately the size of a stopwatch - to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and some of the symptoms of PD. At present, the procedure is used primarily for patients who experience motor symptoms that cannot be satisfactorily controlled with medication.
However, there is new evidence that DBS could also be beneficial for some of the non-motor symptoms of PD that are traditionally unresponsive to the procedure, like cognition, depression, and posture and gait. Different circuits in the brain have different jobs to do, and the idea is that, by focusing on specific circuits, doctors will be able to isolate treatment for the various specific symptoms of certain diseases. These treatments are still in the early stages of testing.
To find out more about the potential for new DBS procedures for PD, and to hear from two men with PD who have undergone DBS, read this MJFF News in Context.